You have a choice, when it comes to every obstacle you face in your life. You have a choice about how you feel about situations and how you react to them (I will explain the significance of this choice later on). These choices are often based on the mental models that you have accumulated throughout your life- and you have a mental model for just about everything and anything – it is your way of making sense of the universe – “this is how the world works, according to me”. Just to make matters even more confusing your models might even conflict with other people’s models or even other models that you have yourself!
To demonstrate this, put yourself in this situation:
You are running hella late for work. You have such an important meeting today, and typically you are stuck in traffic. You’re not just stuck in regular traffic- this is the mother of all traffic jams. To make matters worse, its 37’c outside and your air conditioning in your car is not just broken- it’s blowing hot air. You cannot stress the importance of this meeting today and just as you start making some headway a guy cuts you up, almost causing an accident. He also cuts up another car up ahead almost causing another accident.
What are your feelings towards the driver of that car? (What expletives would you use?)
More than likely you are angry, certainly loving kindness is not the default emotion in this situation.
However, what if I told you the driver of that car has just received some terrible news. He has just heard that his son has been in a serious accident and is currently in intensive care. He is not sure if he will see his son alive again in his life and he is desperately trying to reach the hospital.
Are you still angry? Or has your human capacity for compassion kicked in?
There is no way for you to know, in this situation, if this guy was an inconsiderate, rude driver or a distraught father. In this case, it really doesn’t matter.
You had the choice, of which emotional domain you would occupy. Initially, in all likelihood you didn’t realise that 1. You had a choice and 2. You can exercise that choice.
You face these types of situations dozens of times a day and more often than not you choose the emotional domain that leaves you depressed, angry, frustrated, etc. – do you realise now that you have a choice to feel the opposite?
Every time you find yourself in an unpleasant situation that persists, you are using one or more mental models that are not serving you well. The moment you make a change in that mental model- that situation will disappear just like that.
Remember, you have the choice every single time.